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Annual Fitness Index: Minneapolis-St. Paul Newest 'Fit City'
Minnesota Ag Connection - 05/17/2017

The twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul edged Washington, D.C. in the 10th annual American Fitness Index (AFI) released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc. The nation's capital held the top spot for the past three years and improved its score in 2017, but Minneapolis-St. Paul still finished on top despite the challenges of being a northern state with hard winters.

San Francisco-Oakland finished third this year, Seattle-Tacoma fourth, San Jose fifth, Boston sixth and Denver seventh. The top seven cities in the 2017 AFI are between 4-13 percentage points ahead of the rest of the pack, principally related to lower rates of smoking and cardiovascular disease deaths and higher reported physical activity, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and per capita park expenditures in their communities.

Nationally, there were some remarkable positive shifts during the last year:

- 0% increase in the percent who met the recommendations for aerobic and strength in the last 30 days

- 5% drop in the percent with diagnosed angina or coronary heart disease

- 9% increase in walkability scores

- 9% increase in the percent who live within a 10-minute walk to a park

- 7% increase in the total park expenditures per capita

- 0% increase in the number of recreation centers per 20,000 residents

Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) with the greatest improvement in their rankings since last year included San Jose, Los Angeles, Miami, Buffalo, Orlando and Las Vegas.

The 2017 AFI report also revealed some shortcomings over the past year:

- 7% increase in the rate of diabetes deaths

- 3% reduction in the percent of residents biking or walking to work

- 2% decrease in the percent of individuals eating the recommended number of servings of fruit

- 6% reduction in the number of tennis courts per 10,000 residents

MSAs experiencing the largest drop in their rankings this year included Virginia Beach, Richmond, Providence, Philadelphia, Kansas City, New Orleans and Charlotte.

The American Fitness Index provides evidence-based data and a number of valuable resources that help cities promote healthy lifestyles. To aid communities in promoting physical activity and enhancing quality of life, ACSM, Indianapolis, and Anthem Foundation developed and released the AFI Community Action Guide offering an overview of the critical decisions and factors related to effective community action:

"Our ultimate goal is to offer individuals, families and communities trusted resources that can help them assess, plan and implement policies that promote positive health outcomes," said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FASCM, who chairs the AFI Advisory Board and is president-elect of ACSM. "Ten years of evidence-based data offers these cities and their citizens valuable insights into how to substantively improve elements leading to healthier lives and reduced health care costs."

"As the American Fit Index celebrates its 10th year, it's a great opportunity to celebrate the efforts of communities and their leaders who have effectively used the data to make measurable changes that are helping improve the health and wellness of their residents," said Craig Samitt, MD, chief clinical officer, Anthem, Inc. "While the improvements we are seeing are worth celebrating, we know there is still more that can be done. We are proud of our foundation's work and collaboration with ACSM to offer science and evidence for communities to create a culture of healthy lifestyles."

At the community level, the AFI data report has been used as an assessment and evaluation tool to educate community leaders on the importance of key indicators of physical activity. Leaders can then focus on policy, systems and environmental change (PSE) strategies that are evidence-based and create sustainability for the community.

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